Avoiding Basic Economy Fares While Using Chase Ultimate Reward Points

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I recently used some Chase Ultimate Reward points to book flights at a value of 1.5 cents per point thanks to having a Sapphire Reserve. I normally transfer my Ultimate Reward points to partners such as Hyatt, United, Singapore, British Airways, etc. and use them to book awards via respective travel partner award charts. However, in this case it was fewer points to book our flights using points at 1.5 cents each than to book a 25,000 mile United saver award, and frankly I just didn’t feel like paying cash this time around.

 

In this process I learned a few things, including that the Chase Travel site treats Basic Economy fares differently depending on the carrier.

I was shopping specifically for a United flight and wanted to be sure to avoid a Basic Economy fare since I wanted to earn elite qualifying miles, have advance seat selections, be able to move into E+ seats, etc. I was afraid that the Chase Travel Site was only going to display the Basic Economy fares and force me to call in and try to get them to book a different fare class over the phone.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, the Chase site didn’t display United Basic Economy fares at all, at least not on the dozens of routes I checked. Instead, they booked into the lowest regular economy fares, which for most people is a far better choice unless you are 100% okay with the very strict basic economy rules such as no seat assignments, no full size carry-ons, no elite qualifying mileage earning, poorer re-accommodation options in the event of delays and cancellations, etc.

Note that this is different than when the fares first launched and the United Basic Economy fares were available via the Chase Travel site as shown in this screen shot from a couple months ago.

However, this lack of displaying United’s Basic Economy fares does not carry over to American and Delta operated flights. While the Delta and American versions of Basic Economy fares are not as pervasive (yet) as United’s, they do display as the default option in the Chase Travel site when the restrictive fares are available on that particular flight.

You will know when this happens as a warning pops up displaying the Basic Economy fare rules for that carrier.

I strongly dislike Basic Economy fares, but since they do exist, my first choice would be that you could easily select whether you wanted regular economy or basic economy fares within the Chase Travel site. However, if you are going to only have one online option, I’d vastly prefer it to default to a regular economy ticket rather than a basic economy ticket, so I like how they are handling the United Basic Economy fares. If I wanted to fly without bags, seat assignments, elite qualifying miles, rebooking on other airlines during IRROPS, and more….I’d just book Spirit since they are almost always cheaper than the basic economy fares from the major carriers anyway.

Have you used some fixed value points to book flights since the Basic Economy fares spread to United and American? How have those fares impacted your ability to use points via one of the third party sites like Chase Travel?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Will a law protecting family seating ever get passed? Like under age 12 yo must be seated with adult family member without resorting to having to buy more expensive fares for multiple family members? Any insight? Thanks

  2. You can call Chase’s travel agent partner and have them book you into a higher class of service.

    • For sure. I just hate phone calls – especially when lots of booking details are involved. Good Plan B though!

  3. I used Citi TY points to book a flight recently. The AA fares avoided basic economy but the Delta fares did not. I had to call in to book Delta’s main cabin “regular coach” tickets. It took over an hour between hold times, transfers to different departments, giving the demographic information for each member of my family, and telling the agent exactly which flights I wanted. I asked them to pass on to their supervisor my request to consider not just displaying basic economy seats to avoid this type of thing which was turning me off from their program.

  4. This is great news, thanks for it. I hate hate hate the new economy. I will be looking into flying southwest.

    Were the economy seats you could get on Chase’s site more expensive than basic?

    How about getting flights with United Points on their own site? How does that work?

    Are all international flights regular economy and not basic?

    • Ebene, yes they were the same prices as the lowest regular economy fares, but it made using my Chase points at least simple. When you use your United miles with United the awards do not follow the Basic Economy rules. I don’t think international fights are Basic Economy…yet.

      • Thanks for the info. It looks like using points is way better than buying the basic economy ticket. I didn’t know that using United miles the awards didn’t follow the basic economy rules. That is great news.

        I do wondering if international tickets will go this way now that there are so many airlines that do the basic fare for international tickets too.

  5. Called the rewards number to try and book a regular economy seat on Delta as online was showing Basic Economy only. On Delta’s site there is a $15 price difference between regular and basic. To book a regular through Chase there was a $700 difference. Was told they do not sell the X class that shows on Delta’s site.

  6. This is good but it seems that Chase isnt even offering the Basic economy option, which is what I’m attempting to get. Kinda sucks if I’m okay with basic economy for my upcoming trip.

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